If Memorial Day weekend signals the start of the summer vacation season, then the recent Paint the Porch Pink Walk and the arrival next week of the Third Annual Historic Riverton Criterium on June 9, must mean that the celebration of Riverton’s Glorious Fourth cannot be far behind. Such are the new rhythms of a Riverton summer in 2013.
Promoter Carlos Rogers gives frequent updates on his Historic Riverton Criterium Facebook page. The band is back! Package Goods Orchestra will be playing your favorite hits from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s on race day. Carlos has lined up sponsors with a goal of benefiting the Riverton Fire Department with race proceeds. The food truck and the Cupcakes2GoGo ~ South Jersey’s First Cupcake Truck will be worth checking out.
He even managed to get the county to repair a spot at a turn in the street (do I sense a future in politics for Carlos?).
And, oh yes… come to see the main event–exciting competitive bicycle racing where the spectators are close enough to hear the tires zizzing on the asphalt and feel the draft as a pack of cyclists whoosh past.
The tradition of bicycle racing in Riverton’s early days has been reported upon here and elsewhere many times, but it is fair to say at this point that the Historic Riverton Criterium is now a firmly established and very much anticipated tradition of today’s Riverton in its own right.
Since Carlos has generously earmarked race proceeds to benefit the Riverton Fire Company, he asked if we might print something about the history of the RFCo. We shall now play a couple of “summer re-runs” for our audience from 1990 and 1994 Riverton July Fourth Programs. Mrs. Betty B. Hahle, former Town Historian wrote the following three articles and, according to her wish, we print them here exactly as she wrote them. Some additional images accompany Mrs. Hahle’s text.
RIVERTON FIRE COMPANY 1890 — 1990
Early Riverton villagers relied upon brooms, wet blankets, and buckets of water to fight fires, and in 1889 a small chemical engine supplemented these. It was operated by The Second Brigade, a bucket brigade branch of Palmyra’s Independence Hook and Ladder Company. Both groups responded to fires in both villages.
After a disasterous fire here in January 1890, that destroyed 2 businesses and 3 residences, it became apparent that Riverton needed a full fire company of its own. Public subscription for funds began, and in March the directors met at the home of John C. S. Davis, on Bank Ave., to organize a volunteer fire company. Within the next two months they had purchased the small hose shed on Main/5th Sts. from Palmyra’s company, adopted a constitution and bylaws, elected officers, and incorporated as The Riverton Fire Company of Riverton N.J. Originally incorporated for 50 years, in 1940 the company incorporated in perpetuity under newer laws. A hose carriage and 50 ft. of hose were purchased, and the Fire Commissioners placed the chemical engine in the new company’s hands- all stored, for awhile, at C. T. Woolston’s Carriage Works, on 7th St.
In July, 1891, a small lot on Howard St. was purchased, and the hose house moved there. Soon additional land was purchased, and a firehouse erected. In 1895 the Borough rented space in the basement for a jail and in the upper level for meetings ($100 annually), beginning a custom that lasted for 94 years.
Equipment improved, from hand-pulled and operated, to horse-drawn vehicles, to the purchase of a motorized chemical and hose cart, in 1916. More and larger equipment necessitated a bigger firehouse, and over a period of years more land was acquired and the building enlarged and remodeled many times. In 1961 an extension toward Howard St. was dedicated for new Borough offices, which have this year been renovated for use as Police headquarters.
In 1920 the Fire Company turned over its equipment to the Borough, but retained its own autonomy. In 1927 a Ladies Auxiliary was formed, and in 1951 an aluminum rescue boat was added to the company’s life-saving equipment. In 1965 the first walk-in rescue truck, which also pulled the boat, was added. And from 1936-1967 the Firemen arranged entertainment for Riverton’s children each 4th of July, with games, races, and free refreshments.
Riverton’s volunteer firefighters have consistently expanded and upgraded their equipment, their training, and their rescue and safety services; today grateful residents take this opportunity to say thank-you, for 100 years of dedicatin and service.
Betty B. Hahle, Pres.
The Historical Society of Riverton
RIVERTON FIRE COMPANY, INC. (STATION 241)
In a village of frame buildings, where fireplaces, candles, oil lamps and coal stoves were the norm, and where more than forty daily trains often belched out glowing embers that fell on roofs as they went by, fire was a constant threat. The cry of “Fire!” brought neighbors running with brooms, shovels, buckets, blankets — anything with which a fire could be brought under control and prevented from spreading.
In March 1890, a few weeks after a particularly disasterous fire at the Roberts Store on the point of Howard and Main streets, the Riverton Fire Company was organized. It incorporated on May 5, and was recognized by the Fire Commission, which placed the small “chemical engine” stored in Riverton in their care. The firemen went from door to door seeking funds with which to buy equipment and to operate, and were able to purchase a small engine shed, a hose cart, and fifty feet of hose. The following year they purchased a small lot on Howard- Street above Fifth, and moved the hose house and equipment there. Just fifteen months after Riverton incorporated as a borough (in Dec. 1893) the young Council voted to rent space in the Fire Company’s enlarged building for their meetings, and for elections; and space in the basement for a jail. Yearly rental: $100.
Equipment gradually progressed from small hand-pulled and -operated carts to larger horse-pulled and steam-powered carts. In 1916 the Fire Company purchased its first motorized truck. In 1920 the fire equipment was turned over to the Borough, which from then on was responsible for the purchase and maintenance of new equipment. The Fire Company owns the property housing the equipment, and is responsible for maintaining and operating the building and grounds, as well as enlarging, strengthening, updating, insuring, and otherwise improving and adjusting the facility as needed to accommodate the ever increasingly large, and powerful equipment. Over the years abutting properties have been added to the original lot, and many renovations have taken place. In 1961, for example, a wing facing Fifth Street was added to the building for Borough Offices, which was remodeled for Police Headquarters in 1990 when the Borough erected its own municipal building.
The Company’s income is realized from rental of space to the Borough for the Police facilities and for the fire fighting equipment, and through donations from Riverton residents. The Fire Company is involved in various community activities, such as safety programs, and responds not only to fire alarms, but also to vehicular accidents, downed power lines, water accidents and other emergencies. From 1936 to 1967 the firemen sponsored the children’s games and races at the Park on July Fourth, and every child received free treats of ice cream, Cracker Jack, gum and other items such as jump ropes or cap canes. At school fairs children could have a ride on a fire truck. The Riverton Fire Company participates in parades, and always in Riverton’s own Traditional Fourth.
Today’s fire fighting equipment includes two Pumper trucks and a Ladder truck, as well as a walk-in Emergency truck and a rescue boat. The Company has an excellent working relationship with the companies of neighboring towns, covering for and working with each other as needed. Each volunteer fireman completes training at the Burlington County Fire School, and there are currently 66 members. This includes active, inactive and exempt members. New volunteers are always welcomed.
During the past year (1993) Riverton Fire Company answered 150 fire calls and 15 drills, with each active member averaging 250-300 hours given in response to calls and to maintaining the firehouse and its equipment.
A community’s insurance rates are determined by the Board of Fire Underwriters, and reflect the quality of the fire protection there. Riverton has been awarded the highest rating.
Betty B. Hahle
4th of July, 1994
THE RIVERTON FIRE COMPANY LADIES’ AUXILIARY
Quietly working behind the scenes is a small group of women dedicated to supporting the volunteer firemen of Riverton. When there is a major fire they are there with coffee and foods for the fire fighters. They march with them in parades. And throughout the year they are busy raising funds to supplement the Fire Company’s limited income. By holding hoagie sales, chicken dinners, and trips, the members of the Auxiliary furnish and maintain the kitchen in the firehouse, and contribute to the upkeep and upgrading of the Company’s building.
Although early records have been lost, it is thought that not long after the Fire Company was organized in 1890, wives, sisters and daughters of the firemen formed a supportive group. In 1927, a Ladies Auxiliary was organized. In time interest dwindled, and the group disbanded.
The need was still there, however, and over the winter of 1948-1949 Mrs. Ann Carhart personally visited each fireman’s family to urge their support and participation in a new group. She was successful, and was elected president of The Ladies Auxiliary of the Riverton Fire Company. Mrs. Frank Coddington served as treasurer, and Mrs. Dorothy Perkins was secretary. Thirty-five years later the Borough planted a Memorial Garden honoring Ann Carhart at the former site of the small railroad shelter above the tracks at the Broad/Main Street crossing — where she had also served as a Crossing Guard for many years. The Auxiliary marked it with a plaque recognizing her as Founder and Past President of the Auxiliary from 1948-1980.
Today Riverton recognizes and honors the members of The Ladies Auxiliary of the Riverton Fire Company: Catharine Bishop*, Linda Hollins, Ethel Hughes, Edna McClellan, Phyllis Morehouse (treasurer), Mary Odorizzi, Jackie Parker, Dorothy Perkins*, Catherine Roedig, Beth Reed (vice president/secretary pro tem), Betty Ruzycki, Fran Slawski, Jenny Taffler, Margaret Wark, Michelle Wittman, Ruth Yearly* (president), Ella Zink (vice president/secretary).
*denotes Charter Member
Betty B. Hahle
4th of July, 1994
We welcome additional information or images, comments, or corrections. See you at the races. – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor